Courage to Teach – Retreats

Courage to Teach® is a professional development opportunity that offers retreats for the personal and professional renewal of teachers, administrators and others in the public schools.

“I would not be where I am without the opportunity for reflection, the purposeful intention, the support of other Courage participants and, especially the guidance and care of the facilitators.”  -Teri O’Donnell, Maria Carrillo High School Biology Teacher

Courage to Teach retreats are designed for educators on whom our society depends for so much, but for whom we provide so little encouragement and support. The Circle retreats focus on neither technique nor school reform, but on renewing the inner lives of professionals in education by creating a Circle of Trust®.

The program offers educators opportunities to reflect on the inner dimensions of teaching and leading.  This retreat series will consist of 20-25 participants who (as a cohort) gather to engage in honest self-reflection and explore questions about purpose, values, and commitment to their challenging work. In doing so, they increase their capacity to listen to self and others more deeply.

In large group, small group, and solitary settings, the heart of the educator is explored by making use of stories from their own journeys, reflections on classroom practice, and insights from poets, story-tellers, and diverse wisdom traditions. Participants are invited to speak honestly about their lives and work and to listen and respond to each other and to themselves with encouragement and compassion.

Skilled facilitators are at the heart of this work. All Courage Facilitators have been trained by the Center for Courage and Renewal, founded by esteemed educator Parker J. Palmer. Their work is to create a trustworthy space a circle of trust within which participants explore their inner lives and vocational and life questions.

Retreats are held at the Santa Sabina Center in San Rafael, Ca.

Join our current Courage to Teach Opportunity

2020-2021 Retreat Dates:

Mar 26-28 2021

Sep 24-26, 2021

Click here to register.


Rona Zollinger, Ph.D grew up under the snow-capped Rocky Mountains and later at the shores of the Pacific Ocean.  It was place and community that inspired her toward a career as an educational entrepreneur. For 20 years, she has integrated transformative learning, place-based education, career exploration, and outdoor play into the lives of young people as a high school teacher, mentor, industry partnership developer, program director, and agent of change.  Alongside her daily work in public education, Zollinger is also the co-founder of New Leaf Collaborative (a non-profit) where she directs and facilitates all 3 options in the Empowering Educators program. 

Teri O’Donnell has taught high school Biology for the past 26 years in Santa Rosa, California, where she lives with her husband Mike and her son, Sean, when he is home from college.  Teri has been a regular participant in Circles of Trust for years at Santa Sabina and just completed her first year as a Courage to Teach facilitator. Concerned with the disconnectedness she sees as a growing epidemic in schools, Teri uses techniques learned in the Circle of Trust, along with her nature photography and love of the planet to help students and teachers reconnect with themselves, with others in the community, and with the natural world.